With the rise in demand for profes- sional bike mechanics but a lack of training opportunities, aspiring bike mechanics in Canada are left in a difficult position.
Currently, there is no standardized provincial or federal bike mechanic certification process, leaving mechanics to learn inconsistent repair techniques acquired from private companies.
Recyclistas, a local bike shop in Victoria, has recently begun offering individual three-hour bike repair classes for adults and youth, and a monthly 30-hour course for aspiring bike mechanics. However, since there is no provincial or national bike mechanic certification process, they have to base their programs on resources from American bicycle specialty company Park Tool.
“They already had the curriculum, so we just adopted that,” says Ryan Harris, bike mechanic and co-founder of Recyclistas.
The three-hour classes are for people who want to learn how to maintain, fix, and rebuild their bicycles. There is no curriculum for these classes, but students can learn the basics, from fixing a flat tire to building a wheel.
The 30-hour course is for aspiring mechanics who want in-depth knowledge of bicycle maintenance, and is based on Park Tool’s 30-hour bicycle maintenance and repair manual. Mechanics will get a hands-on experience with bikes and will learn how to perform fixes from minor repairs to complete overhauls. No prior experience is needed to join, and the next course is scheduled for January 2017.
The problem with using materials from a private company is that they teach different techniques, which leaves certified mechanics with varying competencies and knowledge. Two people could both be accredited mechanics, yet service could differ depending on the bike shop they choose.
A provincial or national law would ensure that certified mechanics learn the same procedures, and cyclists would receive consistent service.
Lee Bly, another bike mechanic at Recyclistas, suggests that if there were a licensing framework for cyclists, similar to motor vehicles, it would speed up the process for a uniform bike mechanic certification process nationwide.
“I think [the government] would push the process forward if they made everyone get mandatory licenses for bikes,” he says, “because that would force the industry to standardize, making sure bikes are safe, so you could insure them, or so people [could] get a license just like cars.”
“I’d rather see our job get standardized,” Bly continues. “Everyone knows more. Everyone’s on the same page, and not everyone’s using different techniques all the time.”
In the meantime, mechanics will continue to make do with the instructional materials available. But until a standardized certification process is established, pit stops will be a little bit harder for aspiring mechanics and their customers.